Tokaj wine region, located at the foothills of Zemplon Mountain in the northeast of Hungary, is considered to be the most important wine region of the country. The region is home to noble wine, Tokaj Aszú, which has been described as “King of Wines, and Wine of Kings” by Louis XIV. The history of wine production in Tokaj goes back as early as the 12th century and it is one of the first wine regions with a vineyard classification system that was established here in 1730. A long history of winemaking, indigenous grape varieties, unique wines, and the cultural landscapes protected by UNESCO make Tokaj one the most desirable places to visit in Hungary.
Tokaj – One of The Most Influential Wine Regions in Hungary
Tokaj wine region is often referred to as the most significant and important wine region in Hungary. The region is located in the northeastern parts of the country close to the Zemplen Mountains. Ancient volcanic soils of Tokaj and the location near the confluence of two rivers create ideal conditions for the development of Botrytis cinerea – a noble rot. The mold on grapes increases sugar and flavor concentration on a higher level and helps winemakers to produce some of the most unique topaz-colored sweet and structured wine, Tokaj Aszú.
Little Bit of History
Tokaj has a long history of winemaking and viticulture. In 1703, the Patriot Prince Rákóczi of Transylvania used the area to garner support from King Louis XIV against the Habsburg overlords. The King praised Tokaj for producing the ‘wine of kings and the king of wines’ during his reign in the 17th century. Along with King Louis XIV, Catherine the Great of Russia also loved Tokaj so much that she had a permanent detachment of her guard stationed in the region to guard royal shipments. During the 19th century, Queen Victoria of England was given a birthday gift each year of a dozen bottles of Tokaj wine by the Austro – Hungarian Emperor.
Terroir and Classification System of Tokaj
Along with the Zemplen Mountains, the vineyards of Tokaj are protected by the Carpathian Mountains, providing them with a relatively warm continental climate. The soils in Tokaj are a mixture of volcanic loess and clay. Vineyards of Tokaj extend over 27 villages and 5,967 hectares. The best vines found on the southern slopes, where they are sheltered from the northern winds. The first vineyard classification of Tokaj was introduced by the Rákóczi family in the mid-17th century that was dividing vineyards into 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class (or cru) quality ratings. Each of the 27 villages of the Tokaj PDO creates unique conditions and identity of the wines produced.
There are six grape varieties officially approved for the production of Tokaj wines.
The most famous wine from Tokaj is the Tokaji Aszú. This is a classic sweet wine that is notable for its marriage of sweetness, acidity, and apricot fruit flavors. The key ingredient in the production of Tokaji Aszu is Furmint which is a grape that has a high level of acidity. Aszu grapes are all hand-picked individually and gathered into containers that are called puttony, each holding about 25 kg of grapes. Following this, the Aszu grapes are trampled into a paste and mixed with a base wine made of non Aszu grapes. The wine is left to age for 2 years with 18 months in a barrel. It must contain 120 g/l or sugar and have an alcohol content of at least 9%.
Szamorodni wine is also produced from a mixture of Aszu and non- Aszu grapes that are either ripe or very ripe. The dry style of this wine is known as Szaraz and the sweet style is Edes. Edes style is aged in a barrel and is matured for two or three years in oak.
The most luxious wine of Tokaj is the Tokay Eszencia. This wine is also known as Legfobb Fob which means supreme wine. The wine is rich in sugar which makes it extremely sweet with flavours that are velvety with hints of peach and honey.
The Kvaszinger Winery and estate is a family-run winery that has been in the Kvaszinger family since 1929. The estate is situated on 4 hectares of land and offers visitors a variety of experiences including wine tasting on the beautiful Bodrog River. The winery has a terrace that opens onto the bend of the river where the wines can be tasted in one of the most beautiful settings in Tokaj.
Simko Pince is a family boutique winery in Sarospatak in the Tokaj wine region. The winery offers various wine tasting packages and tours for a minimum of 8 visitors, allowing guests to taste their own selection of wines. For those looking to extend their stay, the winery offers accommodation in a quaint and comfortable guest house on the estate.
For visitors who would like to experience how Hungarian noblemen lived in the 18th century, the Rakoczi Castle in Sarospatak is the perfect place to visit. This incredible castle was the centre of a number of wars that Hungarian soldiers fought for their independence and today it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tokaj. The castle is made up of a central building with a bright red tower and although it has been reconstructed many times over the years, it maintains its medieval style. Inside the castle’s visitors can view exhibits showing how lords lived, how cannons were built, how the cuisine of the time was prepared, and learn more about the wine making techniques that were used during this time. Every third weekend of July, the castle hosts a reenactment of the battle of the castle in the summer festival of Sarospatak. The castle is open to visitors every day except for Mondays and tickets can be purchased at the castle grounds.
Doll Museum at Olaszlizka and Surrounding Vineyards
Olaszlizka and its quaint wonders
The village of Olaszlizka has been inhabited since the 13th century and is located halfway between Tokaj and Sátoraljaújhely. One of the highlights in Olaszlizka is the wonderful Doll Museum that has an incredible collection of dolls through the ages. Many of these dolls are dressed in traditional Hungarian costumes and tell a story of the past of the Tokaj region. After visiting the Doll Museum, visitors should be sure to spend time in the surrounding vineyards of Olaszlizka visiting the many local wineries and tasting the excellent local wines on offer. Wine tours are offered by horse and carriage to make the experience even more unique! Olaszlizka provides an experience unlike any other village in Tokaj and should be added to any itinerary to the region.
World Heritage Wine Museum – Learn about Tokaj and Its Famous Wines
The World Heritage Wine museum in Tokaj is located in a beautiful 18th century restored and renovated building. The museum was opened in November 2015 as the Museum of European World Heritage Vineyards. Inside the museum, the main focus of the displays and exhibitions is on the history and production of Tokaj wines. There is plenty of information allowing guests to learn more about the wine, related work and the traditions of the region. When touring the museum, guests are accompanied by a virtual guide and each showroom hosts interactive exhibits. The museum is open to visitors every day except for Mondays and tickets are available for purchase at the door.
Venture off the beaten track to the Tarcal mine
The old Tarcal mine is located at the foot of the Great Bald Mountain and is a beautiful area with crystal clear spring waters. The clear azure water of the mine takes the breath away of all who visit. To access the mine visitors should start walking in the small town of Tarcal for approximately a kilometer until they reach the statue of the Blessed Christ. From here views of the mine can already be seen as well as the former Tisza riverbeds and fishponds. The Tarcal mine is the perfect place to relax, hike and take in the beautiful natural environment of Tokaj.
Wonderful Outdoors in Tokaj Wine Region
The Tokaj wine region has unparalleled natural beauty. The natural scenes across the region range from high rising mountains to low valley slopes planed with rows of breathtaking vines. The natural landscape provides the perfect location for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation while visiting Hungary.
Megyer-hegy Tarn – Hike the Zemplen Mountains
There are many hiking spots across the Zemplen Mountains, but Megyer-hegy Tarn is by far the most popular. The tarn is a lake that is situated on the 324-meter high volcanic Megyer-hegy. It was previously a millstone mine that is still visible to this day. The Megyer-hegy Tarn was declared a nature reserve in 1997. The millstone mill at the site operated from the 15th century to 1907. Due to the collection of rainwater, a pit was carved into the tuff which formed a pond surrounded by towering rock walls. Around the lake there are plenty of signs of the mine workers who lived here centuries ago such as small stone flats and half-finished millstones. The best way to enjoy the Megyer-hegy Tarn is to hike up the 324-meter-high hill. In 2011, the Megyer-hegy Tarn was named the most beautiful natural site in Hungary and should not be missed by all who visit the Tokaj region.
Kopasz – Hegy – The Bald Mountain
Kopasz – Hegy is a mountain in Tokaj that is also known as the Bald Mountain. The mountain is located on the Plain and the Zemplen Mountains at the point at which volcanic and sedimentary rocks collide and stand out. Along with hiking, the most popular activity at Kopasz – Hegy is skiing and snowboarding. For skiers and snowboarders there are 0.7 km of slopes and 1 lift that transport guests. The area that is allocated for winter sports sits at between 380 and 485 meters high. The ski resort is open daily for day visitors and can be easily accessed from the town of Tarcal which is 5 km away.
Bodrog River – The mighty river of Tokaj
The Bodrog River is located in Tokaj in north eastern Hungary. The river is a tributary of the Tisza River. It was formed by the confluence of the Onava and Latorica Rivers. The entire length of the Bodrog River is 67 km, which provides plenty of opportunity for visitors to enjoy it along its course. Many of the wineries of the Tokaj region are located along the river which they use for irrigation purposes. When visiting these wineries, a range of river activities can be enjoyed such as boating, water sports, hiking and cycling on its banks. For water lovers, the Bodrog River is the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of Tokaj.
The Fantastic Flavours of Tokaj
The wonderful dishes of Tokaj are based mainly on localy sourced meats, seasonal vegetables, bread, fruits, cheeses and other dairy products. Most of the dishes are cooked using or with the intention of pairing them with the wonderful local wines. This creates a Hungarian food and wine experience that is a wonder for the taste buds.
Palacsinta – Delicous Hungarian Pancakes
Hungarian crepes are very thin pancakes that are rolled up and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Locally these crepes are known as Palacsinta and are filled with various ingredients such as apricot, strawberry or blueberry jam. Other popular fillings are vanilla or chocolate pudding, apple sauce, cinnamon, ground walnuts or even cocoa powder. Crepes are a delicious and quick to eat treat. They are best eaten warm and can be enjoyed at any time of the day when the craving hits.
Tokaj Wine Cream Soup – The Taste of Christmas in Tokaj
Tokaj wine cream soup is an extremely popular dish that is normally enjoyed during Christmas in the cold winter months. The soup is made with a mixture of white wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and egg yolks. The wine, water, sugar, cinnamon and some cloves are all boiled together in a pot. While this is boiling, the egg yolks are beaten with some more wine until they become perfectly creamy. The hot wine mixture is then added to the egg yolks while continuously stirring so that the egg yolks do not curdle. The soup is then strained and served immediately with some delicious homemade bread and another glass of local Tokaj wine.
Lecso – Hungarian Pepper Stew
Lecso is a local and traditional Hungarian stew that is made with yellow pointed peppers, tomato, onion, salt and paprika. When making Lecso, most Hungarians will tell you that it is necessary to use the special Hungarian wax pepper. This pepper is mild in flavour and seasons from August to October. The base of Lecso is tomato and peppers that should be cooked in a pot on an open fire. Historically, this was a cheap dish for the local peasants. To cook the stew, onions, garlic, peppers, salt and black pepper are all cooked in lard, oil or bacon fat. Once these ingredients are slightly cooked, tomatoes are added. When the tomatoes are mushy and the juices released, the Lecso is ready to be enjoyed! This hearty meal is best enjoyed during the winter months and paired with a local Tokaj wine.
Share about Tokaj Wine Region:
Soil: Rocky with volcanic origin
Climate: Continental climate with long sunny summers and cold winters
Aszar-Neszmely wine region is a great destination with a broad offering of wineries with wine tasting and tours. On our website you can book your visits in order to be prepared for your time in the region.